Haunted Movie Review:
The Amityville Horror (1979)
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Sandor Stern (screenplay)
Jay Anson (book)
James Brolin … George Lutz
Margot Kidder … Kathy Lutz
Rod Steiger … Father Delaney
Murray Hamilton … Father Ryan
A curse — or is it a ghost — is determined to make sure no-one ever lives in the now-infamous house in Amityville, New York, ever again.
Something is present. Always there… lurking… you can feel it. Maybe the worst thing about it is that it’s unknown. What’s making all these things happen? The floating furniture… the swarms of flies… the blood oozing from the walls and the stairs… Who or what is spying through the windows — or am I starting to lose my mind too? Mr. Lutz has taken a liking to an axe, and Missy has made an evil invisible friend. Too late have the Lutzes realized they my have bought more than just a house in the county. This house has a disturbed mind of its own.
A gruesome murder in the small town of Amityville has left a house in the country abandoned and for sale; dirt cheap, or course. Some say you get what you pay for, in this case it’s too true, and the Lutz family has just paid for a nightmare. The previous owners were a family, gunned down in their own home. The killer was the son.
The Lutzes move into the house, hoping for a new life in the country. Soon after they move in, creepy things start to happen. Fearful and suspicious, they call a priest, hoping he can rid the house of its evil presence.
All hell breaks loose when Father Delaney (Rod Steiger) tries to bless the house and pray for the evil to leave. He finds himself locked in a room, he loses his sight, grows ill and is even attacked by clouds of flies. Fleeing the house, he seeks safety in his office but, the malevolent forces pursue him. He burns his hand severely attempting to call the Lutz family and warn them to leave the house.
The murders were said to have taken place at 3:15 a.m. and, now George wakes up every night at exactly that time. His features change eerily. He begins to take on a disturbingly strong resemblance to the killer. The babysitter locks herself in the cupboard while Missy watches without helping her, distracted (or aided) by the bizarre apparition of a pig, Jody, with glowing red eyes. Blood drips from the walls and, George falls into a pit of goo in the basement. Will the Lutzes be able to escape the demonic and supernatural forces that have taken over?
The music is haunting and hits all the right spooky notes. As for the special effects, I guess you have to cut it some slack, seeing as it was made in the ’70s, but even allowing for that, I think the filmmakers could have done better. In spite of that, there are some really good scares; definitely a movie I would recommend for horror fans.
- James Brolin… plays George Lutz… a great husband when the family first moves in, before starting his demonic change; not just in appearance but in character. Brolin plays his role effectively.
- Margot Kidder… plays Kathy Lutz… the newly married bride. Very convincing, especially as things start falling apart.
- Rod Steiger… plays Father Delaney… this great actor really pulls you in. You can really feel yourself praying with him as he tries to banish the evil from the house.
Amy: [sings] Jesus loves me, this I know / For the bible tells me so / Little ones to him belong / They are weak but he is strong / Yes, Jesus loves me / Yes, Jesus loves me / Yes, Jesus loves me / The bible…
Kathy Lutz: Who are you singin’ to, princess?
Amy: You scared Jody.
Kathy Lutz: Jody? There’s no one here, see?
Amy: You scared her. She went out the window.
Kathy Lutz: She went out the window? Well, I’d better check and make sure she’s not still there, huh?
George: Peace to this house and all who enter in it. Peace to this house and all who enter in it.
Kathy Lutz: Forgive our sins, and save us from all illness. Grant this through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
George: Peace to this house and all who enter in it.
Kathy Lutz: What, what’s happening?
The House: Get Out!
Father Ryan: Half the killers in this country say the same thing. The voices. The voices told me to do it.
Father Delaney: But I heard them, Father. I heard voices!
Kathy Lutz: I just wish that… all those people hadn’t died here. I mean… ugh! A guy kills his whole family. Doesn’t that bother you?
George: Well, sure, but… houses don’t have memories.
Bartender: Jesus, I’m sorry. You look just like that kid. You know, he was sitting right in that seat where you are when he was arrested.
In 1980 The Amityville Horror was nominated for an Oscar for Best Music — Original Score.
The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror nominated The Amityville Horror for Best Actress and Best Horror Film Saturn Awards.
Lalo Schifrin was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Original Score — Motion Picture.
Thoughts from the HauntedHouses.com team
The Amityville Horror was released in 1979, riding a wave of publicity generated by the best-selling book. Stories of strange on-set events had been drip fed to the press for months ensuring that interest in the film reached a fever pitch. As a result, it took in enough at the box office to make it the most successful independent film ever in its day. Decades later, it’s hard to see why the film was a hit.
The back story is famous: George and Kathy Lutz buy a fantastic house dirt cheap because the previous family were all murdered in it by the eldest son, shot in their beds because demonic voices supposedly told him to do it. Less than a month later, the Lutz family fled, claiming they and their children had been tormented and terrified by supernatural forces. The film recounts these events – the slamming doors, the demonic voices, the flies – until, all hell literally broke loose.
Starring James Brolin and Margot Kidder (fresh from her success as Lois Lane opposite Christopher Reeve in Superman), The Amityville Horror focuses on the characters rather than special effects. It’s their mental, emotional and, in George’s case, physical breakdown which drives the story. We watch as their relationship goes from happy to catastrophic as history begins to repeat itself. As the young couple, Brolin and Kidder carry the film, their conviction encouraging you to believe even if, in the back of your mind, you’re never really convinced. Acting heavyweight Rod Steiger chews the scenery in his scenes as a priest trying to help the Lutzes in spite of being thwarted by the supernatural and his own Church. He never shares an actual scene with Brolin and Kidder, and that’s a shame.
The problem is it’s just not scary. The Amityville Horror came half a decade after The Exorcist, and three years after The Omen. Three years later, Poltergeist would come along and tell essentially the same story far more effectively.